The American Sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) is the second most common tree in Louisiana forests (the most common is the Loblolly Pine). Sweetgums are also plentiful in our local suburban landscape despite a significant drawback, the spiny seed-carrying balls that fall from their branches by the hundreds this time of year.
The sweetgum is a fast-growing tree that can reach heights up to 100 feet. In summer its plentiful maple-like leaves make it a very effective shade tree. In the 1940’s several cities promoted planting sweetgums as replacements for elms killed by Dutch elm disease. However it has fallen out of favor in landscaping. Because of its leaves and gumballs it is now recognized as one of the messiest trees.
The gumballs are a particular nuisance to large dogs like our greyhound. They are just the right size to be lodged between the pads of his paws. Many times gumballs jammed between his pads have fooled us into thinking he had badly hurt his foot.